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Cornish fireplace firm director used illegal gas fitter

Date:
9 December 2014

An illegal gas fitter and the director of the company that hired him have been fined after dangerous work in six homes in Cornwall put families at risk.

Varcurn Marble Ltd company director Lee Curnow, contracted Mark Lawson, an unregistered gas fitter, to install gas fires at six homes in the Camborne, Redruth, Truro and Helston areas between January 2012 and October 2013.

The incidents were investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted the pair at Bodmin Magistrates today (5 December).

HSE launched an investigation after a Gas Safe registered engineer found significant failings in the work carried out by Mr Lawson, following reports of fumes from a gas fire at one of the properties.

The court heard that Mr Curnow did not make suitable checks to see if Mr Lawson was on the Gas Safe Register, a legal requirement for anyone carrying out gas work.

Of six gas fires installed by Mr Lawson, four were classed as immediately dangerous, meaning if operated or left connected to a gas supply, there would be immediate danger to life or property. One was classed “at risk” with one or more faults that could constitute a danger to life or property, and the sixth had a previously reported gas leak following work by Mark Lawson, which would be classed as ‘immediately dangerous’.  

On at least two occasions, Mr Lawson falsely claimed to be on the Gas Safe Register by using the registration name and number of a properly registered gas engineer on the commissioning documents for fires he installed.

Mark Lawson, of Fore Street, Barripper, near Camborne, pleaded guilty to three breaches of gas safety regulations and was fined a total of £10,666 and ordered to pay £274 in costs.

Lee Curnow, of Greenfield Terrace, Portreath, pleaded guilty to a single breach of gas safety regulations and was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £274 in costs.

HSE Inspector Simon Jones, speaking after the hearing, said:

“Mr Lawson put lives at risk by deliberately claiming to be a Gas Safe registered engineer and then carrying out substandard work which was then classed by a qualified engineer as immediately dangerous.

“Only qualified and registered engineers are allowed to carry out gas work and by his illegal actions, Mr Lawson misled customers into believing he could do the work.

“Mr Curnow also risked the lives of his customers by failing to check if Mr Lawson was on the Gas Safe Register by asking to see his register membership card, checking the installer page on the register website or calling GSR.” 

Russell Krämer, chief executive for Gas Safe Register, said:

“It is a legal requirement for all engineers working on gas to be registered. Badly fitted and poorly maintained gas appliances cause gas leaks, explosions and fires. To avoid the risks of dangerous and illegal gas work, people should check that anyone who works on their gas appliances is Gas Safe registered.”

Further information about gas safety can be found on the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/gas/ If you suspect an illegal gas fitter report it to Gas Safe Register on free phone 0800 408 5500.

Notes to Editors

The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It   does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk

Regulation 4 of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 states: “Where an employer or a self-employed person requires any work in relation to a gas fitting to be carried out at any place of work under his control or where an employer or self-employed person has control to any extent of work in relation to a gas fitting, he shall take reasonable steps to ensure that the person undertaking that work is, or is employed by, a member of a class of persons approved by the Health and Safety Executive under regulation 3(3) above.”

Regulation 3(3) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 states: “No employer shall allow any of his employees to carry out any work in relation to a gas fitting or service pipework and no self-employed person shall carry out any such work, unless the …self-employed person..is a member of a class of persons approved for the time being by the Health and Safety Executive for the purposes of this paragraph.”

Regulation 3(7) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 states: “No person shall falsely pretend to be a member of a class of persons required to be approved under paragraph (3) above.”

Regulation 26(1) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 states:“No person shall install a gas appliance unless it can be used without constituting a danger to any person.”

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